The Cereal Blog

By Julie Bromilow – CAT Education

midwales_mapcardIf you read my ‘Get your Oats’ blog in a fever of excitement, you will be wondering how we got on with our cereal tour of mid Wales….

Myself, CAT biology wizard Grace Crabb, and student placement volunteer Wendy Williams who has been researching low carbon food solutions for CAT, joined forces with Jane Powell from Organic Centre Wales, who had planned the itinerary, which we discussed over coffee and flapjack at the Treehouse, the famed Aberystwyth organic café.

We began with some winter wheat trials in the university fields. There were several types of wheat and barley, and many Turkish varieties. High protein wheat, favoured by modern, industrial scale bread makers, grows best in hot dry climates. High protein bread making flour began to be imported to Wales from Canada in the 19th century.

june_2008_028We then continued to Felin Ganol at Llanrhystud for a jaw dropping experience. Anne and Andy Parry bought this old derelict mill a few years ago, on account of the nice garden and granny annexe. Having discovered that they had inherited a water mill with all the parts still on site, they set to restoring it. It is now a working water powered organic registered flour mill, and they would like nothing more than to mill locally grown grains. At present, they are mostly using Doves Farm grains, currently imported from Kazakhstan due to a shortage of British supply.

And then on to another inspirational couple – Mike and Maggie of Mairs Bakehouse, in Carmarthenshire. By now it was bleak weather, and the bakehouse was high in the remote and drizzly beautiful moors so walking into the kitchen was a warm and cosy delight. Completely off the grid, their electricity is provided by wind, and the very efficient purpose build oven is fuelled by wood. The bakery specialises in sourdough and old yeast sponge variety breads, and Mike and Maggie run their business from a health perspective – they want to provide tasty bread that everyone can eat, no matter what their dietary requirements. The oven and large batches of loaves require round the clock commitment – fortunately, passion and commitment are not in short supply.

s5001132smallIn terms of our project mission perhaps the most positive news was to discover that these traditionally baked loaves made at a cottage industry scale, do not require high protein imported flour. Mike and Maggie buy most of their flour from Lincolnshire, some from Anne and Andy at Llanrhystud, and are hopeful, as are we all, that there will be an opportunity to use locally grown grains in the future.

Dandelion wine and spring folics

Rennie writes….

Morning Everyone,
There are so many spectacular wild life sights in this area at this time of the year it’s a job to pick which one to draw your attention to — the Red Kite soaring high above the mountains, the amazing spectacle of aerial skill as a flock of starlings come in to roost, the lightening fast swoop of the Peregrine as it hurtles earthwards etc. etc. — so I thought we would consider the Dandelion today.

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The roadside verges are a mass of golden colour at present as the dandelions are in full bloom but have you ever looked a little closer at these familiar flowers? In fact the ‘flower heads’ are complex structures made up of tiny florets which look like a single flower. Look a bit closer — is it a dandelion or a lesser dandelion ( found in drier areas ), a Marsh dandelion ( wet areas), a red – veined dandelion or is it perhaps a Hawk’s beard ( in which case is it a Stinking Hawk’s beard or a Marsh Hawk’s beard ) or is it a Hawkweed ( in which case is it a Mouse ear Hawkweed or a Leafy Hawkweed ) or is it a Hawkbit or ????   Ok I  can practically hear you all yawning, so back to the basic common or garden dandelion ( Welsh name Dant y llew– tooth of the lion– because of its jagged leaf edges ) An old vernacular name is Jack -piss- the – bed  — a reference to its well known diuretic properties. It is also an extremely useful plant — the leaves can be used as an alternative to lettuce in salads, the flowers ( traditionally picked on 23rd April St Georges day) make one of the best flower wines, the roots can be dried and ground to make a coffee substitute and perhaps most importantly of all the hollow stems can be transformed into a sort of whistle type thing which produces impressive raspberries when blown properly.
What better way to spend a summer evening than getting sloshed on last years dandelion wine and then sitting in a circle blowing raspberries at each other — well it works for me !
Oh yes and the humble dandelion probably inspired Shakespeare ( a well known writer apparently ) to come up with the much quoted lines : Golden lads and girls all must / As chimney sweeps all come to dust

Could you help us make Zero Carbon Britain a reality? Vacancy: for ZCB communications officer

We’re looking for an experienced and innovative campaigner to mobilise support for ‘Zero Carbon Britain 2030’, our new vision for delivering energy security & re-vitalising the economy, whilst setting a global lead in acting on climate change.

See the full job description and apply

We’re looking for someone who wants to work with people who are beyond ‘the usual suspects’ and mobilise support to take Zero Carbon Britain 2030 to the highest levels of government.

You’ll be a focused and strategic thinker who can design a campaign to have maximum effect in short period of time.You’ll have practical experience of how to communicate issues with different audiences in an engaging way. You’ll have a sound understanding of how to engage the public on climate issues and motivate them to take action. You’ll have experience of working with civil society, community organisations and progressive business and you’ll understand how to turn interest into activity and empower people to help us communicate Zero Carbon Britain at the highest levels.

For some back ground on Zero Carbon Britain watch this short video:

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CAT Education Get Their Oats!

By Julie Bromilow – CAT Education Department

oats2I and a colleague Jo Gwillim represented CAT at the Big Tent festival last July by giving a Zero Carbon Britain talk. At the festival I was impressed by the focus on food, and enjoyed sampling the array of tasty local produce – I just couldn’t get those oatcakes out of my head.

The germ of an idea kept coming back to niggle me – how can we regenerate an interest in growing grains for human consumption?

The chapter on land use in Zero Carbon Britain 2030 clearly details the challenges and some solutions we are faced with – a scenario for how we can manage our land to produce all the food, resources, and energy that we need, conserve our biodiversity, and all importantly sequester excess emissions produced by other sectors. As part of this scenario, we would expect a significant reduction of our current meat and dairy production and intake, with a focus on quality not quantity. This means that we will need to shift the current agricultural model from its current high density of livestock to one that is lower in livestock but richer in fruit, vegetables, legume and grain production.

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Bolivia Climate Conference Update

Follow the conference on

Climate VoicesClimate Justice NetworkDaily News from the Conference

Over 20,000 people have convened in Cochabamba to take part in the People’s World Conference on Climate Change that opened earlier this week. The event is being held because of the  real threat to the existence of humanity and the environment from climate change and the failure of the Copenhagen Conference to reach any fair and binding deals. boliviapic

Evo Morales opened the conference speaking before an estimated 15,000 people, including several Latin American heads of state; government representatives from Africa, Asia, and Europe; and indigenous delegations, Morales detailed his government’s proposal for establishing an international climate justice court, passage of a U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, reparations from rich countries to assist poor and low-lying nations that will be impacted by the effects of climate change, and financing of clean energy technologies. He also urged countries to open their borders to future waves of climate refugees.

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Naycher Corner – ‘When gorse is not in blossom, kissing is out of fashion.’

14 April

Yellow seems to be the predominate colour of the early spring flowers. Lesser Celandines are popping up everywhere with their heart shaped leaves and bright butter yellow flowers, whilst daffodils, primroses and dandelions are all in full bloom. Although gorse seems to be in flower all year round (hence – when gorse is not in bloom, kissing is out of fashion) it is particularly colourful at the moment. One plant which will be coming into flower soon bucks the trend – Ramsons, or Wild Garlic. You can already smell the pungent aroma of them from the woodland as you walk over the bridge at the entrance to CAT. Wild garlic leaves are much milder than cultivated garlic bulbs so you don’t have to worry about your breath so much if you intend to get up close and personal with someone. The Latin name (showing off again) is Allium ursinum though where the connection with bears comes in. I’m not sure and interestingly the Welsh name is Garlleg yr arth which translates as Garlic of the bear.

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Join CAT Tonight on BBC Wales for the Mid Wales Election Debate

bbc_cymru88aThis evening CAT will be part of an invited audience to put forward an environment question to the Montgomeryshire candidates in a live BBC Wales election debate. The debate will be broadcast tonight at 10.45.

The panel in the Question Time style debate will include Glyn Davies (Conservative), Nicholas Colbourne (Labour), Lembit Opik (Liberal Democrats) Heledd Fychan (Plaid Cymru) and David W. Rowlands (UKIP), who are all standing for the Montgomeryshire seat, and an invited audience of local NGO’s, youth and special interest groups.

Tonight’s Welshpool debate will be chaired by BBC Wales Political Editor Betsan Powys and is one of three events being held across Wales that will cover all party issues from the environment to economics.

You can read political summaries by party and issue with this online tool from the BBC’s Guide to Party Election Policies.

World People’s Conference on Climate Change

The world comes to Cochabamba..

When President Morales of Bolivia launched his invitation to the world to come to Bolivia to develop a Peoples’ Agenda for Climate Change, no one ever imagined the overwhelming response it would generate. With less than a week to go before the conference, here are some of the astonishing statistics related to the conference:

  • At least 15,000 people are expected to attend from 126 countries
  • Around 70 governments are expected to attend to listen to the voices of civil society, including Presidents of Ecuador, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Venezuela, the Vice-President of Comoros Islands, government ministers, delegates and parliamentarians from Europe, Asia and Africa.
  • The following international organisations will also be sending representatives: UNICEF, FAO, UNESCO, UNFPA, WTO, OICA, OPS, FIDA
  • 180 self-organized events have been registered by different networks on every aspect of climate change policy
  • More than 50 scientists, social movement leaders, researchers, academics and artists have agreed to speak on 14 panels including NASA scientist Jim Hansen, Bill McKibben, environmental journalist and leader of 350.org, Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva, best-selling author Naomi Klein, Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, Miguel D’Escoto, former President of UN General Assembly, Lumumba Di-Aping, former lead negotiator for the G77 along with leaders from leading environmental organizations and communities at the front line of climate change.
  • More than 300 press have registered including major news networks and newspapers such as BBC, Radio France International, Guardian in the UK, Telesur, l Jazeera, and Democracy Now

It is clear that the conference and its objective of putting forward a just and effective response to climate change have touched a chord worldwide. It shows more than ever, after the failure of Copenhagen, that the hope that we can address the climate crisis lies with the people of the world

gagwebThe objectives of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth are:

  • To analyze the structural and systemic causes that drive climate change and to propose radical measures to ensure the well-being of all humanity in harmony with nature
  • To discuss and agree on the project of a Universal Declaration of Mother Earth Rights
  • To agree on proposals for new commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and projects for a COP Decision under the United Nations Framework for Climate Change that will guide future actions in those countries that are engaged with life during climate change negotiations and in all United Nations scenarios, related to: Climate debt, Climate change migrants-refugees, Emission reductions, Adaptation, Technology transfer, Finance, Forest and Climate Change, Shared Vision, Indigenous, Peoples, and others. These are split into 17 working groups, which will form basis of the final document of the camp.
  • To work on the organization of the World People’s Referendum on Climate Change
  • To analyze and develop an action plan to advance the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal
  • To define strategies for action and mobilization to defend life from Climate Change and to defend the Rights of Mother Earth.

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CAT Get Up Close and Personal with the Local Mosses and Lichens at our Nature Knowledge Share

As part of CAT’s monthly Nature Knowledge Shares, Margaret Howell an expert from Aberystwyth University, took us on a guided tour of CAT’s diverse and abundant moss and lichen population.

Despite the rain, we were captivated for two hours learning how to identify common mosses and lichens, their favoured environments and the unique ways they colonise and spread. It became clear in the short session, of the breadth of knowledge that our expert, and our locals, had to share.

The setting for the Nature Knowledge Share series is usually Coed Gwern, CAT’s 15 ache newly managed woodland, but the environment around CAT is so plentiful that we didn’t need to go far to locate over 20 species, before heading back to the CAT restaurant to debrief on what we had found [see our flickr slide-show above].

The monthly Saturday morning sessions each have a particular focus from identifying the calls of birds to learning traditional woodland crafts. The next Nature Knowledge Share will be this Saturday morning (April 17th) with the theme Mammal Detectives. We are calling for locals living within a 20 mile radius of CAT to suggest the specialist focus of the following session on Saturday 15th May.

To book a place, make a suggestion for the May session or to find out more about Coed Gwern please contact CAT Biologist Grace Crabb on 01654 705971, or email Grace.crabb@cat.org.uk.

7 April

The bluetits are well into their courtship rituals at present and will soon be sorting out their nesting sites. The courtship follows a set sort of pattern and is easily observed as there are so many of them around. The initial ‘chat up’ will take place on a branch or hedge when the male will tentatively proffer an offering of food, usually a tasty grub or caterpillar to a likely looking female. If she fancies him, she will respond by crouching low and opening her beak, and sometimes fluttering her wings coquettishly. ( the avian equivalent of fluttering eyelashes perhaps?) If she accepts the present then the male has pulled and he will cockily continue to bring her other delicacies while they search for a suitable nest site. When they find somewhere and start to think about building a nest, the behaviour subtly changes and the male can be a little hesitant in entering the nest area with food until he is sure the female is happy with him.

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